The Surprising History of Pediatric Service Around the World

Physicians and medical professionals have been treating ailing children for as long as they’ve been treating adults. Going back as far as 400 BC, Hippocrates wrote on topics concerning pediatric service for conditions such as asthma, clubfoot, and the mumps. Still, it wasn’t until much more recently that doctors dedicated their studies specifically to infants, children, and adolescents.

It wasn’t until the 19th and early 20th centuries that interest in the treatment of children began to form as a separate medical field. The first known hospital in the Western world dedicated solely to treating children was the Hôpital des Enfants Malades (the Hospital of Sick Children) founded in 1802 in Paris, France.

The Surprising History of Pediatric Service Around the World

The hospital became famous for admitting only children up to the age of 15. Still, at that time there was not a clearly defined field of pediatrics and the reason for opening the hospital was not to revolutionize child care, but to simply keep the children and adults separate from each other. The trend spread slowly through Europe, and it wasn’t until 1899 that Kings College Hospital in the United Kingdom opened a department for pediatric study and care.

Doctor George Frederic Stills was one of the pioneers of pediatric medicine and headed the new department at Kings College Hospital. His most famous publication, out of 108 papers and five books that he published during his fifty year career, was his book Common Disorders and Diseases of Childhood. An instant success, the book went on to aid his successors in the relatively new field of pediatric medicine.

By the 1850s, interest in the field was growing quickly. A German-born doctor named Abraham Jacobi arrived in New York in 1853 to start his own medical practice, and he subsequently came to be known as the father of pediatrics in America. In 1855, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia became the first institution in the United States, like the Hôpital des Enfants Malades, to treat exclusively sick children and infants.

Pediatrics was officially established as a unique field of medicine in America in 1930 when the American Pediatrics Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics were founded. In less than half a century, pediatric medicine advanced substantially and now includes many subspecialties from which doctors can choose to study.

When new hospitals were constructed to care for sick children, there was little understanding that infants and children are affected by different conditions, and require different treatments for such conditions, than adults. Now, we understand the importance of specified training and education for pediatricians so that they can effectively treat and cure childhood diseases and disorders. With this understanding, our hospitals and research centers are more focused on improving care specific to young people.

Progress in identifying and treating aggressive forms of childhood cancers, managing childhood asthma and ADHD, and developing vaccines for viruses which largely affect our children has been staggering. Although pediatric medicine has a relatively short history, especially as a specialization within the general medical field, there are many dedicated professionals helping to propel it to greatness.